Giant Trawlers Are Gobbling Up Fish in Critical Marine Ecosystem

Industrial fishing operations are scouring the waters of the Barents Sea around Norway, threatening more than 200 fish species and potentially endangering millions of seabirds, seals, whales, sharks, and walruses.

Using satellite data and field work, researchers for Greenpeace spent three years documenting the devastating impact industrial trawlers have had on what many scientists call the “Arctic Galapagos.” In their report, “This Far, No Further,” Greenpeace concludes that ”the largely unexplored and vulnerable northern part of the Barents Sea ecosystem is at the mercy of destructive fishing practices, due to the current lack of action to protect it by the Norwegian government or the fishing and processing companies.”

The report specifically implicates companies like Birdseye, Findus and Iglo, which are buying millions of pounds of cod fish caught by the destructive trawlers, as well as haddock, northern prawns and halibut. Greenpeace wants food companies, restaurants and retailers to refuse to traffic in fish caught in the Barents Sea. They are also calling for the Norwegian government to create an off-limits zone in the region.

There are several reasons why industrial trawling is such a big problem. First, it is simply “one of the most destructive methods of fishing,” says marine conservation biologist Calum Roberts, a professor at the University of York, England. “Over the last 200 years, it has converted once rich and complex seabed habitats to endless expanses of shifting sands and mud.”

The trawlers are “weighted with heavy metal rollers; they smash and crush everything in their path.”  They can destroy deep-water coral reefs and kelp forests that provide food and breeding grounds for all manner of  oceanic wildlife.

The sheer volume of fish that trawlers can catch is also extraordinary. Overfishing has already caused fisheries in other parts of the world to collapse, to the point where some scientists believe we could not just overfish but outfish the oceans by 2050. The increasing number of trawlers, fish processors, exporters and distributors that are now operating in the Barents Sea are putting the entire ecosystem there at risk, as well.

Plus, trawlers catch millions of other animals besides fish. “According to some estimates, as much as 40 percent of fish caught around the globe is discarded at sea, dead or dying,” reports Lee Crockett, Director of U.S. Oceans at the Pew Charitable Trusts. That means millions of whales, turtles, seals, seabirds and other marine life are indiscriminately being caught, killed and thrown back into the sea.

Greenpeace and other conservationists are advocating establishment of a marine reserve to put the most sensitive areas of the Barents Sea completely off-limits to all extractive uses. The organization is also urging fish processors to stop doing business with suppliers that are fishing the northern Barents Sea waters.

Consumers, meanwhile, can put pressure on retailers not to buy fish from producers that can’t document that their fish did not come from the Barents Sea.

Consumers can also also consult the recommendations made at, a resource created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to help people choose seafood that’s been farmed or fished in ways that minimize their environmental impact.


Overfishing is Actually Worse Than We Thought
12 Problems with Ocean Fish Farming

Photo Credit: g.norðoy


Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton2 years ago

These people are money hungry trash they don't give a shit about what the outcome will be, Shame on all of us!!

Lenore Kudaka
Lenore K2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder3 years ago


S Gardner
sandy Gardner3 years ago

Today the headline in the Sequim, WA paper tells of over-fishing that has led to fewer and smaller and less quality in the Coehoe Salmon Population. Sequim, WA is on the Washington Peninsula that Dungeness Crab comes from. I hope we haven't gone too far!

Donna T.
Donna T3 years ago

thank you

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Gilbert A.
Gilbert A3 years ago

STUPID BASTARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

h masih
.3 years ago

why are there not laws MADE and ENFORCED about this? Is it the money? You can not eat or breathe money.When will anyone see what is of real value?

Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing